The health impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Least Developed Countries (LDCs) during the first eight months of the current year was ‘considerably less severe than what had been initially feared.’
Least Developed Countries Report 2020, prepared and released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), made the observation.
The report, published on Friday, pointed out that 71 other developing countries (ODCs) and 42 developed countries had higher infection rates than the LDC average on 31 August 2020.
“Infection rates in the LDCs corresponded to one fifth of those prevalent in ODCs, and less than 10 per cent of those of developed countries,” it said.
The report also observed that among the LDCs, the most affected were the Asian LDCs, especially Bangladesh and Nepal, which had more than 1,000 cases per million inhabitants as of 31 August 2020.
On average, African LDCs and Haiti as a group had the lowest infection rate, it added.
“Countries with small populations, e.g. Djibouti, Sao Tome and Principe, Mauritania, Gambia and Guinea-Bissau, also had more than 1,000 infection cases per million inhabitants, but infection rates in other countries in the subgroup were significantly lower,” it further added.
“The infection rate of the island LDCs stood somewhere in-between that of the other two subgroups.”
It is to be noted that the cut-off date for pandemic statistics for this report is 2 September 2020. The full report is available at: https://unctad.org/webflyer/least-developed-countries-report-2020.
The UNCTAD report also mentioned that in terms of deaths caused by Covid-19, two small LDCs -- Sao Tome and Principe and Djibouti -- reported slightly more than 50 deaths per million inhabitants. Having small population (less than 1.0 million), a reduced number of deaths appears large in relative terms.
“The next four most affected were larger countries, which experienced between 20 and 40 deaths per million inhabitants: Gambia, Afghanistan, Mauritania and Bangladesh,” it added.
The other 37 LDCs had experienced less than 20 Covid-related deaths per million inhabitants during the period under review.
The global economic downturn due to Covid-19 also brought about a sharp shrinking in the external demand for LDC goods and services, according to the report.
The sharp shrink in demand depressed the prices of their main exports, and caused a slump in inflows of external resources (remittances, capital), it added.
The report estimated that manufactured goods exports accounted for 37 per cent of total LDC merchandise exports and the bulk of their merchandise exports consist of ready-made garments (RMG).
“The effects of the lockdown on retail trade and the massive global job losses that occurred as a consequence of the pandemic, together with the fact that spending on these items can typically be delayed by consumers, has led to an especially acute slump in worldwide demand for garments,” it mentioned.
As a result, orders from developed countries to LDC producers were cut back sharply and LDC exports of RMG may shrink by 20 per cent in the current year.
“This caused a deep fall in exports of LDCs, such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, Haiti, Nepal and Lesotho, for which manufactures account for over 50 per cent of merchandise exports,” the report added further.